I will be traveling to the MLA conference and visiting Sho-ching for the holidays.
So I may not update this blog until 2005. See you then, and I hope that your new year is better than 2004.
MAN OF THE YEAR
BUSH IS THE TIME MAGAZINE MAN OF THE YEAR FOR 2004
One million letters? We should be able to do that!
Please send yours and forward to two people.
GOOD NEWS: Want a New President? Rep. John Conyers NEEDS 1 Million Letters
Rep. John Conyers has requested ONE MILLION emails to support his coalition's effort to contest the recent Presidential election.
When Congress reconvenes in January, at least 14 members of the House of Representatives will challenge the validity of the 2004 election. They will request an immediate investigation into many problems and rregularities encountered in the election.
According to the Electoral Count Act of 1887, one senator and one House Representative are required, in order to contest an election prior to inauguration.
To write a Rep. John Conyers that you support the representatives who seek to contest the election, please write an email to:
If you're not sure what to write, just copy & past my form letter:
Representative John Conyers: I wholly support the ongoing efforts for a fair recount of the 2004 Presidential election. Evidence of systematic fraud has surfaced from multiple and numerous sources. The U.S. legal structure allows for this evidence to challenge the election results. I believe that we ought to exercise the law sooner rather than wait until it is too late for our country.
Getting a member of Congress from the House of Representatives is no problem. We can easily get a dozen. The problem is getting even 1 Senator to sign on. You may remember the painful and mysterious opening scene from Moore's "Farenheit 911". Despite numerous and passionate appeals, not even one Senator would sign onto the legal challenge of the 2000 election fraud in Florida. Hence, Bush took office and the nightmare of terrorism and wars unfolded. The Senate is populated by establishment oligarchs who are less willing to disturb the status quo, since of course they _are_ the status quo. But the strategy now is to pressure one Senator in particular, Barbara Boxer, to sign on. See below. That's all we need to mount a legal challenge. In addition, we should pressure the entire Senate. Please send a short note, like the above to Conyers, to your 2 Senators.
We also need at least ONE Senator to Contest the Vote.
No matter what state you live in, please let Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) know that we want her to be that senator:
Please also contact your local Senator to request that he/she Contest the Vote on January 6th:
Gandhi said, "First they ignore us, then they laugh at us, then they fight us, then WE WIN!"
PASS ON THE WORD! We CAN Do This!
Arnebeck Lawsuit: Summary, Explanation This could overturn the election!
Fear vs. Democracy: Taiwan & USA
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail for Unification
The election of legislators last week in Taiwan was distorted by fear, much like the election of Bush was distorted by fear. Different fears for different countries, to be sure, but fear and democracy do not mix.
Interviews strongly suggest that the vote was based on fear of a Chinese invasion -- which again the Blue-KMT media had drummed up relentlessly. Those who were not afraid voted Green-DPP (aka, independence), while those who were afraid voted KMT (aka, unify business interests with Mainland China). After the election results were reported, everyone relaxed into the notion of Confucian harmony. Harmony is at the highest priority in Confucian tradition. A conciliatory gesture toward the Mainland had effectively been made, and now everyone could go back to shopping. After all holidays are coming soon!
But the Taiwanese seem to be the last people on Earth to get the message that they themselves just sent out to the world. All of the international press, including even the Arab press as someone noted, printed the same headlines: "Taiwan voted against indepedence." Here in Taipei scholars are busy trying to deny this message, but they seem in denial. The denial nevertheless reveals that the election was distorted by fear: people didn't vote against independence; they just voted for peace. But that choice is an illusion. It may take a few years before the Taiwanese realize what they've just done.
In other words, the international press got it right, and further the "no independence" sign is not merely a rhetorical message. Beyond communicating this message, Taiwan's little window of opportunity just slammed shut. History is moving relentlessly onward, in an accelerated period of transition. Time waits for no one. President "Abian" Chen cannot run for election again. Like for the past 4 years, we again are saddled with a KMT majority in the legislature blocking any effective reform, trashing anything and everything that the DPP attempts to pass -- much less independence. For the next 4 years, Taiwan will be able to change nothing.
Meanwhile, after 4 years, they say that China's military will have attained effective superiority. More fear is the consequence. More fear equates to more KMT. Hence, the KMT will be back in full power, controlling the executive branch, the legislative branch, the judiciary, and the media. They will have the authority to move toward unification. Taiwanese independence from China will remain a curious little dream left in the wake of historical "realism".
Capitalists unite! You have nothing to lose but your democratic chains!
In November, social stats showed that the reported voting results in Florida precincts were wildly different from the actual numbers of registered Democrats in those precincts. Reported votes also differed significantly from exit polls. These differences were not random -- the reported votes inexplicably favored Bush. This is a suspicious and unexplained phenomena that suggests a pattern of fraud that undermined democracy.
Now we are getting affidavits from election workers in Ohio that claim electronic and other forms of manipulation from the data company Triad. Triad, like Diebold, is run by a rabidly Republican partisan. People concerned about democratic voting in Ohio have been trying to organize a recount since November. They finally can retest a small percentage of the count as a trial run. But that select percentage of precincts has now been "readjusted" and manipulated by Triad technicians.
Follow the link above for the affidavits and the whole story.
Dramatic update! Three major events on the same day. Ohio in turmoil over the recount being sabotaged by Diebold, Triad, and the Republican officials in charge of the state's election system. Desperate legal struggle and high profile protests at last minute. See ---
1000 dead US soldiers and one photo
This is among the photos that the Bush administration doesn't want you to see.
The photo is of US soldiers killed in Iraq, their corpses returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Some of these photos were obtained only after a Freedom of Information Act application was filed to force their release. Bush believes that he has the power to censor any image from reaching you. He can indeed wield that power based on our fear and his monied connections, but in doing so he is breaking US constitutional laws.
By the way, in my 4 years of serving in the Air Force as an electronics technician, most of them were spent at Dover Air Force Base, working graveyard shift. So this photo resonates with other memories for me, memories of being contracted into an elaborate bureaucracy and a rigid hierarchy that has the most destructive technologies in the world. Dover is the largest morgue on the east coast. The Morgue is part of a vast machine that prepares for dead bodies which it anticipates with calculated accuracy.
As of today, the body count breached 1,000. How are we to heed the call to "support our troops"?
What would we do without good old George Monbiot? After revealing crucial corporate abuse around genetic engineering, now he's revealed why Bush & Co. are not facists, but rather Puritans. We're back to the mid 17th century, not the mid 20th. (And I should add Hegel's line about historical returns: The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.)
After reminding us of their theology of individualism, Monbiot writes that the Puritan
'conflated their religious calling with their commercial one. "Next to the saving of his soul," the preacher Richard Steele wrote in 1684, the tradesman's "care and business is to serve God in his calling, and to drive it as far as it will go."(8) Success in business became a sign of spiritual grace: providing proof to the entrepreneur, in Steele's words, that "God has blessed his trade". The next step follows automatically. The Puritan minister Joseph Lee anticipated Adam Smith's invisible hand by more than a century, when he claimed that "the advancement of private persons will be the advantage of the public".(9) By private persons, of course, he meant the men of property, who were busily destroying the advancement of everyone else.
'Tawney describes the Puritans as early converts to "administrative nihilism": the doctrine we now call the minimal state. "Business affairs," they believed, "should be left to be settled by business men, unhampered by the intrusions of an antiquated morality".(10) They owed nothing to anyone. Indeed, they formulated a radical new theory of social obligation, which maintained that helping the poor created idleness and spiritual dissolution, divorcing them from God.
Of course, the Puritans differed from Bush's people in that they worshipped production but not consumption. But this is just a different symptom of the same disease. Tawney characterises the late Puritans as people who believed that "the world exists not to be enjoyed, but to be conquered. Only its conqueror deserves the name of Christian."
There were some, such as the Levellers and the Diggers, who remained true to the original spirit of the Reformation, but they were violently suppressed. The pursuit of adulterers and sodomites provided an ideal distraction for the increasingly impoverished lower classes.'
So, that's the essence of Monbiot's historical scoop. I confess that I should have made this connection before, since I survey Puritans for an American Lit course almost every year. And yet, I didn't. If you want the whole article, and you should, follow the link above.
Retro-Alexandrian Imperialism & Oliver Stone's PTSD
Oliver Stone's "Alexander" was on the silver screens of Taipei. I view it as a symptom of several intertwining problems of the global scene today. The evening I watched it, the Taiwanese audience was vaguely uncomfortable with the gay side of his bisexuality, but they liked his foreign bride. Feisty! And more desired than the white women! Wow! But the supposedly smoldering homoeroticism struck me as mere "acting" and trying too hard. I think that the whole film is Stone's worst. It is his worst film, not because of any pseudo-sexuality, but because of its weird imperialism and confused hero--complex.
I liked Stone's "JFK" despite the Camelot didacticism. I liked his "Natural Born Killers" because it is almost the only film to satirically out-violence the happy violence we've taken as entertaining. That is, I liked it because my students didn't enjoy it. It was strong medicine for them. His "Salvador" is a must-see. I even liked Stone's "Platoon" some 20 years ago because its blend of LSD and war terror struck me as the 1st genuine representation of the absurd Vietnam war. Looking back, I realize now that "Platoon" displayed a troubling hero worship -- the evil sergeant vs the good sergeant that got awkwardly apotheosized in slow motion sacrifice to swelling orchestration.
It is this same apotheoisis in slow-mo set to music that ruins what could have been a good film. In "Alexander" we get an awkward combination of "acting", of didactic preaching about the virtues of a multicultural empire, and yet again the transcendent Hero set to a confused mythography. The violent hero returns. Stone's message for the USA today is periodically sprinkled throughout the film, usually spoken by Alexander himself. An empire must open up and yet respect as equals the conquered. Stone is trying to correct the neo-conservative imperialism of the Bush administration with a retro-Alexandrian imperialism of his own imagination.
That "message" is an anachronism. The Age of Empires is over, in case no one has noticed. We live in a polycentric world where the old territorial domains are irrelevant: Deterritorialization is well underway due to boundary-less flows of finance, technologies, people, ideas, and even movies. As Stone's film shows in Taiwan to a lukewarm reception while the Chinese film "Hero" likewise plays in America is representative of such deterritorial flows.
Stone's message is further vitiated by his war hero-complex. The evident confusions of the film are symptoms of PTSD. This post-traumatic stress disorder is bravely worked out in the film's unfolding, but it fails to transcend. Like the repetition-compulsions of classic shell-shocked soldiers, the film ends about where Stone began, ready to begin again. The fascination of watching this is a psychological voyeurism -- we witness a suffering victim of Vietnam attempt to make his way back to sanity through the idea of multiculturalism through violence. But does this end justify the means? Or more to the point: can violence ever lead to intercultural respect?
"We are losing the war in Iraq. There has been a steady increase in the assaults carried out by the insurgents against coalition forces. The attacks over the past year have risen from about twenty a day to approximately 120. We are an isolated and reviled nation. We are tyrants to others weaker than ourselves. We have lost sight of our democratic ideals. Thucydides wrote of Athens' expanding empire and how this empire led it to become a tyrant abroad and then a tyrant at home. The tyranny Athens imposed on others it finally imposed on itself. If we do not confront our hubris and the lies told to justify the killing and mask the destruction carried out in our name in Iraq, if we do not grasp the moral corrosiveness of empire and occupation, if we continue to allow force and violence to be our primary form of communication, we will not so much defeat dictators like Saddam Hussein as become them." So concludes Chris Hedges in a long review of two new books on the U.S. warriors in Iraq.
Media is all buzzing about the latest hoax. The BBC "acknowledged Friday that it had been tricked into broadcasting an interview with a man pretending to be a spokesman for Dow Chemical, who claimed that the company had taken the blame for the disaster in Bhopal, India, in 1984" -- and that they would finally pay billions of dollars in compensation to the many victims.
"The hoax, contradicting Dow Chemical's rejection of any responsibility, came on the 20th anniversary of the catastrophe, when waves of lethal gas escaped from a chemical plant in Bhopal, in central India, killing more than 3,500 people and injuring thousands more. At the time, the plant was owned by the Union Carbide Corporation, which was taken over by Dow Chemical Company three years ago. Survivors have long complained that they have received inadequate compensation." So says the NY Times.
Other sources, by the way, indicate more than 15,000 deaths eventually, and more in permanent disability. Victims claim that they have never been compensated, by either Union Carbide or by Dow, for the past 20 years.
To underscore the creepy nature of mainstream media, the BBC is apologizing to Dow Chemical, rather than congratulating The Yes Men for drawing attention to what they should have announced themselves. No one is apologizing to the victims. Well, except for the Yes Men, who did say sorry to them after hearing that many victims in India broke down in tears when hearing the "news" are now disappointed again. But after 20 years, they're probably used to disappointment, right? Is there any reason for us to hope?
Follow the link above to visit The Yes Men for inspiration. Yes you can!
China remains in the Coal Age.
My friends in the US say that local TV and papers don't carry news about China. There's also not much of that here in Taiwan too, surprisingly. But if you go out of your way you can find news that leaks out of China's official PR screen. Much of it is dismal and frightening. Here are 2 examples this week of the kind of stuff I've been reading weekly for the past 5 years:
1. "More than 7,000 workers are killed each year in China's coal mines, considered the world's most dangerous. Labour rights groups say the real figure could be around 20,000." Today, December 1, families and friends of 166 dead miners rioted and trashed a 4 story building where officials were hiding. They were quoted as saying that the government doesn't care about worker safety, nor about surviving family members.
Note that these are only deaths in coal mines. Deaths of teenage girls in factory fires and unsafe work sites are higher than this. Think about that when you shop in any department store in the US.
2. "Booming China Awash in 'Out of Control' Acid Rain" is yesterday's headline from Reuters out of Beijing. Turns out they have the world's worst acid rain levels because 75% of power is generated by burning coal. So people die in the coal mines and then more people die from burning the coal. The government has tried some methods to reduce pollution, but so far it has had no positive effect. At the end of this article is a typical conclusion: "A government official told the paper that China had yet to set special regulations to control nitric acid."
But hey, it's all about cheap labor and new consumers. Welcome to the post-contemporary globe.